In memoriam: Jim Johnson, Eagles defensive coordinator

1830_regBy Micah Kleit, Executive Editor, Temple University Press

One of Philly’s greatest sports heroes died last week.  He wasn’t a player on the field, but he made the Eagles one of the best teams in the NFL.  I had the pleasure of meeting Jim Johnson while the Press was putting together The Eagles Encyclopedia, and it was a thrill to talk — however briefly — with the architect of the Eagles’ dominating defense.  Ray Didinger, co-author of The Eagles Encyclopedia, knew Johnson well, and wrote of his passing — and his genius as a defensive coordinator — in his “View from the Hall” column at CSN Philly’s web site.

God’s Own Team: The Week That Was Liverpool’s

In this blog entry by Grant Farred, the author of Long Distance Love, writes passionately about soccer, and the team he connects with–Liverpool.

 

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Mark it down, these two dates and places: the 11th of March, 2009: Anfield Road Stadium, Liverpool; 14th of March, 2009: Old Trafford, the outskirts of Manchester. It was the week that demonstrated, without question, as to who the greatest team in English and European football is today. Real Madrid, albeit a shadow of their once-great selves (where have you gone, Zinedine Zidane? Oh, we miss you so in that all-white strip), came to Anfield and Liverpool proceeded to run amok. As early as the third minute, the two geniuses combined: Stevie Gerrard put El Nino, Fernando Torres, through. Wonderful save by Iker Casillas in the Real goal but, no matter, its all over. Magnificent strike by Torres outdone only by Gerrard’s goal. The useless fruitless Ryan Babbel crosses from the left and, Gerrard, who can only, given the bounce and speed of the ball, hit the ball in one spot: his right ankle, and, it has to be perfectly—and I mean perfectly —timed. For Stevie, or, “God’s Own Son,” as I’ve dubbed him in my book Long Distance Love: A Passion for Football, its not quite routine but Lord is it memorable. Stevie gets his ankle into that inch-perfect position and the ball flies into the net. Christ, what a goal. I’ve played that one now, oh, a few dozen times in my head and I’m still awestruck. Can there be any doubt that God, in her or his infinite wisdom, is nothing other than a Liverpool fan? Two days later, said Zidane proclaimed Gerrard the best player in the world. No argument from me, m’sieur. Real left Anfield in tatters, redeemed only by the reflective honesty of their manager, Juande Ramos: beaten fair and square, is more or less what Senor Ramos offered at this press conference.

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A Brief Overview of American Soccer

David Wangerin, author of Soccer in a Football World, explains why his favorite sport has taken its time to catch on in America.

1985_regIn 1981, the fourteenth year of its existence, the North American Soccer League started to crumble. Membership fell from 24 to 21 teams, crowds thinned and a prized network television contract with ABC had been cancelled. Three years later, the league died – and twelve years passed before another took its place.

Major League Soccer is showing rather more promise in its fourteenth year. It operates with more teams than it’s ever had; attendance is still tracing a (modestly) upward path; and though it still loses money, one or two teams are apparently starting to come out ahead.

A quarter-century may have passed since the NASL kicked its last ball, but its legacy has proved surprisingly enduring. This season marks the arrival of MLS’s newest team, the Seattle Sounders, a name that stretches back to the NASL’s heyday. MLS intends to add two more teams in 2011: one will be called the Portland Timbers, a name of similar vintage, and the other, probably, the Vancouver Whitecaps, who won the NASL in 1979. First, though, the league will also add a team from Philadelphia. A well-marshalled lobby is pressing for it to be named it the Atoms, NASL champions of 1973.

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